Friday, May 25, 2012

Spinach & Ricotta Calzone

While unable to sleep one night, yet again, I did what I usually do, turn on the TV to my local PBS station. If I'm lucky, I catch an episode of Nature. Watching whales or sharks gliding through water or a pack of wolves roaming the tundra is the perfect remedy for insomnia and I quickly go back to sleep. But, as often happens, I get an episode of Frontline or their new series, America Revealed, both thought provoking series that keep me wide eyed for a couple of hours. But, this night it was Lidia Bastianich that kept me both awake and hungry.  It was an episode from her series Lidia's Italy in America. On this particular show she was honoring the art of making pizza. As part of the show she prepared a delicious looking Pizza Margherita, a simply decadent ricotta cheesecake, plus some mouth-watering calzones. Ooh, calzones. I have never made them before and these looked wonderful. They also looked surprisingly easy to make, well that is, if you buy the pizza dough instead of making it. Since then I haven't been able to get them out of my mind. So off I went to the local Italian specialty market a few blocks from my house, where I purchased a fresh pizza dough.

Now that the hard part was done, it was time to make the filling. Lidia's was simple and familiar-- some ricotta, sausage, spinach, seasoning and a little grated cheese. A mixture I've made a hundred time for dishes such as lasagna, manicotta or a savory tart.  I chose to eliminate the sausage this time (still trying to reduce our consumption of animal meats) but added a few other ingredients to help punch up the flavor. In addition to the spinach I added some turnip greens that were waiting to get used, some green onions because I can't resist that oniony flavor, and some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, for the little bits of red color they add, completing an homage to the Italian flag.

Yes, they were fairly easy to make. Yes, quite delicious, but I must admit the turnip greens added their characteristic bitter taste. A flavor you either like or dislike. I happen to like it. Next on my list is that yummy looking cheesecake she made. Can't wait! 

Spinach & Ricotta Calzones
recipe adapted from Lidia Bastianich

1 purchased pizza dough 
1 bunch spinach
1/2 bunch turnip greens or any type of greens
3-4 green onions, chopped
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, small dice
1 lb. fresh ricotta
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper 

Place a sieve over a bowl. Line with cheesecloth or several layers of paper towel. Add the ricotta, cover with plastic wrap and weight down to release liquid. Place in refrigerator and let drain for several hours. 

When ready to prepare calzones, start by heating a saute pan. When hot add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and then saute the green onions for a few minutes.  Add the spinach and turnip greens. Season with some salt and mix until wilted and the turnip greens are tender.  Remove from heat and let cool. 

Place well drained ricotta in a large bowl. Add the grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese the sun-dried tomatoes. Season with some salt and pepper. Mix well to combine all ingredients. 

When the cooked greens have sufficiently cooled, squeeze as much liquid as you can from them and add to the ricotta mixture. 

Cut the pizza dough in half. Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8" thickness.  Using a bowl or plate, cut out 4 circles.

Place approximately 1-2 T. of the mixture on each round. Fold the dough over and seal with a fork. Place on a baking sheet. Brush with some egg wash and sprinkle with some grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 30-40 minutes.


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